I have just concluded a 42-hour visit with a dear friend. A soul sister and kindred spirit. We share many women’s common roles: mother, daughter, wife, sister and colleague. Though we have known each other for less than two decades, the honesty and intensity of our conversations are the markers of old souls reunited. After a dearth of interactions beyond my small valley bubble, she brought a fresh set of eyes and perspectives into my world. A new lens on my familiar landscape filled me with appreciation. Opened my mind to possibilities. Rekindled my dormant creative energy.

The trademark of connection is the ability to begin a deep conversation in the midst of silent thought. There is a blurring of the line between conscious dialogue and mind reading. A passing thought about our upcoming birthdays becomes an examination of the rampant addiction by women of all ages to Botox and collagen. Lips puckered under motionless foreheads. And we continue with humble candour about the vertical creases around our lips, permanent forehead furrows and diminished eyelids. Shaking our heads, we mutually agree to fortify each other against the societal judgments which ravage our self-worth. We are more than how we look.

The free association of thought takes shape and substance as we catch up on our pandemic lives and tentative emergence. Both of us admitting that we are struggling with energy management, bad habits invading our daily routines, and a dilution of our focus. Sitting across from each other in deep down-filled chairs, teacups breathing scents of cinnamon and cumin, we dissect our interests, needs and wants. We gently and thoroughly cross-examine each other. Offering unedited insights, risk-laden truths, and thoughtful advice.

Discussing the death of our parents, we agree that time is running out. Setting aside measures of our vanity, we are now into an intense examination of our passions. Searching for words and meaning. The intention is to evolve to our highest and best selves. What past times and energy suckers are pulling us away from activities and people that bring us the greatest joy? What inner dialogue – stories we tell ourselves – keeps us bound to pleasing others, needing outside approval, avoiding the wade into our dreams?

In the midst of our sixth decade, we are still confronting fear. It continues to have the power to diminish our confidence, immobilize our energy, and convince us that it’s keeping us safe. We both agree that in the final quarter of our lives, we need to abandon anxiety-induced avoidance. Masterful at keeping busy, we needed to do an audit of the activities – the daily kilowatt output of physical and emotional energy.

I confess to online shopping, brain-fogging headline surfing, bum-numbing Netflix and several subpar books that are neither engaging or mind-expanding. I collect thoughts and creative ideas, record them in my journal, and then wipe the counter. I read recipes, look at the long list of ingredients and instructions, and pop a frozen pizza in the oven. My daily discipline ends somewhere between morning yoga and a handful of vitamins. During a writing workshop, I am inspired, list chapter themes, and record captivating thoughts and words. At that moment, I am certain I will revisit them. Incorporate the contents of my musings into an upcoming writing project. The pages mount. The pen is still. The keyboard dusty.

My friend presents differently in the dance of avoidance. She has subscribed to the millennial belief that she needs an online presence. She needs to morph into a commodity. Despite accomplishments and accolades as a journalist, best-selling author, and successful psychotherapist, the push to be more, do more, is stealthy and exhausting. There is a sharp intake of breath when I ask what she really, truly wants to do? What creates insurmountable tension. What fuels peace and joy.

In the morning, we debrief on the shifts we have experienced. We name and claim what has been in our way: the fear of failure, the invisible yet palatable judgments, the lazy comfort of occupied time. Then we witness. She commits to shed those activities which diminish her energy, disrespect her true passions and are meant to serve norms and values which are not relevant. I pledge that I will focus my time and energy on a writing project. That I will expand beyond my weekly blog production. I will sit in the middle of my dreams.

At least, that is my experience.